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30 Second Wine Tasting Tip:
What's so sweet about Dolcetto?

One of the more pervasive, and less explicable, wine myths, widely spread even by some experts who ought to know better (and who could find out by the simple expedient of tasting) is that the Italian Dolcetto is a light, fruity wine akin to Beaujolais.

Even as noteworthy a source as the late Frank Schoonmaker's New Encyclopedia of Wine declares Dolcetto "soft, lush, supple ... at its best within two or three years of the harvest." Jancis Robinson comes closer to the mark in her excellent pocket-size Guide to Wine Grapes, calling it "gentle, fruity and fragrant" but also noting that Dolcetto can be a startlingly tannic grape with potential to make a dark, astringent wine.

Perhaps the name of the grape is misleading: It literally means "little sweet one," although a second theory - based on another premise that fails in real-world tasting - is that the Dolcetto grapes are unusually sweet when freshly picked from the vine.

The simple fact is that Dolcetto is not a lightweight wine but a sturdy, gutsy Northern Italian red; and it pays not to underestimate it in your search for vinous enjoyment.

Many Dolcettoes (or Dolcetti, if you prefer the Italian plural) simply carry the generic name of the region, but the most interesting versions carry the name of the specific sub-region in which the grapes are grown: Among others, Dolcetto d'Alba, Dolcetto d'Asti, Dolcetto d'Acqui, and perhaps best of all, the full-bodied and earthy Dolcetto Dogliani.

Today (below) we sample an Italian original from Dogliani and a delicious and well-made American version, made from the same grape grown in the Santa Barbara region up the California coast from Los Angeles.

What do you think of Dolcetto? Send me E-mail at I regret that the growing circulation of the "Wine Advisor" makes it difficult for me to reply individually to every note, but I'll answer as many as I can; and please be assured that all your input helps me do a better job of writing about wine.

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30 Second Tasting Notes:
A pair of Dolcettoes
Mosby Mosby 1999 Santa Barbara County Dolcetto Vigna della Casa Vecchia ($14)
Dark ruby with an orange glint. Deep black fruit and a whiff of exotic spice in the aroma. Full, tart and tannic, deep and brooding fruit. A California wine by a first-rate winery that pays due respect to the Italian style. (Oct. 11, 2000)


Pianetta Francesco Boschis 1997 Pianetto Dolcetto di Dogliani ($13.99)
Dark garnet, with blueberry and distinctly smoky aromas, a pleasant hint of bacon fat. Mouth-filling and ripe, juicy fruit and smoky bacon aromas follow the nose, with soft tannins in the finish. Interesting wine, a bit idiosyncratic. U.S. importer: Vintner Select, Cincinnati; a Marc de Grazia Selection. (Oct. 11, 2000)

FOOD MATCH: Both wines go very well with bucatini all'Amatriciana, Roman-style pasta with pancetta, tomatoes and onions.

New feature on Wine Lovers' Page:
Wine notes in 'shelf-hanger' format

New format Whether you're in the wine business, a collector, or simply a wine lover who enjoys saving published wine reports for your reference, we've introduced a new feature on Wine Lovers' Page that I hope you'll enjoy: Our published wine-tasting reports now appear online in a familiar "shelf-hanger" size and format as you'll often see in wine-store displays, to make it easy for wine merchants or collectors to print them out and post them where the wine is displayed. This service is free for use by wine shops and the public; we ask only that the Wine Lovers' Page name and URL be left intact, and that these reports be used with the specific wines rated, not different bottlings or vintages. To see the wines above in this format, click to For an index of all our wine reports, see, where all reports since Sept. 22 are in the new format.

Wine Lovers' Voting Booth:
How do you use your wine notes?

Last month we asked how many of you take notes on the wines you taste, and found - to nobody's great surprise - that more than one-third of us take notes on all or most of the wines we taste, and well over half of us record our tasting experiences at least regularly. This week we return to the same issue from a somewhat different perspective, seeking to learn what media we use for taking wine notes, and what we do with the notes once we have them. I hope you'll take a moment to drop by the Wine Lovers' Voting Booth,, and add your opinion to the list.

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Robert Parker's Wine Advisor & Cellar Manager,, is the first and only software developed in conjunction with Robert Parker and derived from his newsletter, The Wine Advocate. It combines both a database of wine information and a cellar manager to keep track of your collection.

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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

More time for wine?
You don't need to wait for Mondays to read about wine! Drop in any time on Robin Garr's Wine Lovers' Page, where we add new tasting notes several times each week and frequently expand our selection of wine-appreciation articles, tips and tutorials.

If you'd like to talk about wine online with fellow wine enthusiasts around the world, we'd be delighted to have you join the interactive, international forums in our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group.

Vol. 2, No. 39, Oct. 16, 2000

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